Reposting a question from the government employee

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    • [Please forgive me if this is a duplicate posting; I tried to post this question here last week but I think there may have been a glitch because it never appeared.]

      I am a librarian in the nonpartisan research office of a state legislature. The office would like to reproduce, on its website and on Twitter, digital maps created by other sources (other government offices, private think tanks, news organizations, etc.). The goal is to provide useful information for legislators and their staff.

      The office would like to have a dedicated “maps” page on its website and update it regularly. There would be little or no commentary added, just a brief descriptive caption for each map. The maps would not be altered, but for interactive maps, only a screenshot would be reproduced and a link to the original interactive map provided.

      The map-focused tweets would be interspersed among tweets on other topics, on the office’s general Twitter feed.

      In both cases, the maps would always be attributed and there would always be a link to the original online publication.

      Some of these maps could be copyrighted. So, I would like some clarification on whether our contemplated uses would be considered fair use. Some questions that have occurred to me are: Would our uses of these images be considered “transformative” enough? Would there be any difference between a dedicated webpage that compiles maps from various sources, and a Twitter feed that includes only some tweets of this type? How might the whole of the original work be defined when the map was not originally produced alone, but as part of a report? Would we have to make sure the attribution line was embedded in the image?


      Any insights you are able to provide would be appreciated!

  • I'll take a try at your question - not legal advice however. 

    Your reasoning already tells me you know a lot about the copyright law.  I think a fair use analysis is in order.  If I understand your question:


    Factor one: Purpose to create a map source for employees at government office.Not for profit.


    Factor Two: the nature of the publication -- I assume you have maps that detail govt districts and are geographical in nature.  For those maps that may be protected by copyright, the nature is non-fictional, fact oriented with little if any copyright protection.  (Your complilation of the maps may have a separate copyright).


    Factor Three: you are using complete maps, but your objective cannot be met without using complete maps. 

    I'd call that a "wash," not terribly important given the other factors.

    Factor Four: Effect on the market for the work - minimal? Are any of the source sites selling these maps?  If so, you would purchase them before including them in your project. 



    In my opinion, what you plan to do is a fair use.  But there are some things to also consider:

    If the maps are only for employees, can you password protect the web sites where they are accessed?  I would.  Also why include in a twitter feed?  I do not understand this - why wouldn't the users go to the web site?  Is it easier for them because they can just click on a link that directs them to the appropriate map?  Are there such things - private twitter accounts?  If so, then I would use that.

    Yes, to attribution.

    A map within a report for contextual purposes would be fair. (and considered a "degree" of fairness, I think more fair).

    Not sure if your work is transformational.  Is it searchable?  Or is it just digital reproductions of maps? 

    Hope this helps somewhat!







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